The usual problem in content management arena is that employees spend a lot of time searching for information, re-creating information and while they are doing it, they are not being efficient and productive, and so the company looses money. Employees also use obsolete documents in their work and so the integrity of work and compliance is at risk.
How is this problem solved? By implementing a content management initiative. You have decided to implement a content management initiative. Where to start? This is the subject of my today's post.
In order for your content management project to be successful, I recommend that you follow these steps in this specific order.
This is the first step in this initiative. It involves requirements gathering and development process. During this process you identify the specific needs of the business and then develop and implement the solutions to meet them. This could be for example a new content management system deployment, modification of a current content management system, integrating few content management systems, designing a search solution, etc.
You start with the user study. User study includes users’ requirements gathering and user side testing when necessary. Identify main stakeholders in you organization and include them in your user study. Involve as many stakeholders as you possibly can. All of them might be users of your system. During this process, specific needs of users as they pertain to the content management need to be identified and documented. Current content processes as they would apply to a new content management environment should be discussed with users. Your solution should be based on these requirements.
Based on the user study, the project requirements document (PRD) should be created. This document should include all user requirements and identify the scope of the project. This document would serve as the foundation of your project and will determine your specific actions.
User-centered design is paramount to the project success. When system is deployed based on users’ requirements, they are going to use it. Users will have the sense of ownership of the system which provides excellent starting point in the user adoption process. They know that the system being deployed will be what they need. This process will also greatly help change management processes that would be associated with this system deployment.
User study will help to avoid friction in the content management environment. Users will experience discomfort and stress if they find the system difficult to use or will not find features they need. You want to make sure that their experience is easy and to facilitate an engaging environment, so that there is no disconnects between the system and users. This will also ensure that everyone responsible for content creation and management is on the same page, even if they are not on the same team or in the same department.
Without the user study, the user adoption of the system and change management processes would be very difficult.
Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content. Content strategy evaluates business and users’ needs and provides strategic direction on how content and content processes can help to achieve specific objectives. Content management initiative is much more likely to succeed with a solid strategy supporting it. It can also help to save cost.
Content strategy starts with the big picture and then drills down to a granular level that can be implemented and measured. It encompasses everything that impacts content, including workflow and information governance. It looks across organizational silos and integrates the different business needs, goals, and tactics. It makes sure that the end product promotes consistent, effective and efficient user experiences and business processes.
This user adoption also will be much easier with clearly defined goals, content processes, and the tactics that have been identified by the content strategy. Content strategy will also ensure that everyone responsible for content creation is on the same page, even if they are not on the same team or in the same department. The development of a strategy and plan will not only help things run smoothly, but also actually ensure the business impact that your organization is looking to achieve.
The content strategy should outline the following:
content types in scope of this project, content types outside of scope of this project and where they are going to be stored and managed;
unstructured vs structured content management environment
content creation processes;
content flow including collaboration, review, approval of content as well as localization and translation processes;
lifecycle of content from its creation to its archiving and destruction;
content archiving processes;
technology to be used or modified depending on your situation;
vendor selection if you are going to acquire a new system;
relationship between the existing systems where content currently resides;
permissions to the system and type of these permissions;
administrative support to the system;
users training and support;
migration of legacy content;
identify content owners for each content type;
content output formats and publishing processes;
information governance processes.
The content strategy is paramount to the project success. The content strategy could be outlined for short term and long term and what this project will mean in terms of business objectives. It should determine project goals, resourcing, workflow, and success metrics, which can save GPL from the high cost of ineffective content management initiative.
At this point in time, if you did not yet acquire a content management system, you would do a vendor selection and acquire a content management system based on your user requiremens. You would then work with your IT department and if necessary consultants to deploy the system. If you are modifying the system, you would work with your IT department to coordinate the system modification effort. You will have to write functional specification document which will outline the system functions - new and/or modified system.
Content Audit and Structure
Before any content is uploaded into a system, it is important to know what that content is and what type of content will be uploaded into the system in future. Proliferation of content without its analysis and structure will create the situation where it will be very difficult to find, reuse, and manage it. If you are looking into having a structured content management environment, this task becomes even more important. Chunks of content should be consistent and categorized. Inconsistent content cannot be efficiently reused and/or published. Taxonomy and metadata framework and archiving processes are based on the content structure.
Content structure development should be preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content and projection of content types that might be uploaded into the system in future. Product and content types should be identified and detailed content audit conducted.
If you are in a structured content management environment and using DITA, after the audit, random samples of each content type should be analyzed for the similarity and list of DITA topics and their types should be created. Topics should be consistent as well as each topic’s beginning and end.
Content structure should also include definitions of how different types of content (e.g. notes, warnings, precautions) would be handled: using a topic, conditional reuse, filtered reuse, conrefs, images, tables, and what content is going to be handled through style sheets, etc.
Every information system should include two access points to information: search function and browse function. Users use search function when they know exactly what they are looking for. Users use browse function when they do not know what they are looking for. Taxonomy needs to be created to accommodate the browse function in the system.
Users do not always know what they are looking for. In fact, in most cases, users do not know what they are looking for or they know it but are not able to find it using search. Users are going to look for ways to find content. It is easy to find uncategorized content when there are just few content items in the system. When there are many content items in the system, it is going to be very difficult to find them.
In the structured content management environment, where the number of content items is bigger than in the unstructured content management environment, this problem is much more serious. If you are going to use DITA, with the component oriented DITA use, the difficulty of finding content items is increased by two or three times, because users are looking for smaller needles in bigger haystacks. In the environment where localization and translation processes into multiple languages are involved, there are going to be thousands of content items in the system. The presence of the taxonomy in such environment is absolutely critical.
Having uncategorized content is the system will cause content proliferation. Proliferated content will be very difficult to find and reuse. Duplicate content will be unavoidably created.
Metadata, Naming Conventions, Controlled Vocabulary
Metadata values for content items need to be defined to accommodate the search function of content items in the system. Each content type should have metadata assigned to it. Metadata values would be the criteria that users need to use to search for content items.
The general system search will accommodate the full text search of content. This search would be sufficient when there are just few content items in the system. When there are many content items in the system, the general system search will retrieve a long list of irrelevant items. Users are not going to browse through long lists of items. To make the search precise, the presence of metadata is necessary. If metadata is present, the search can be performed using metadata rather than full text search.
Metadata should be based on the content structure. Metadata should be validated in the user study and user side testing when necessary and adjusted as needed.
The role of naming conventions is very important in order for users to identify content items in the list without opening each one of them. Naming conventions should be created for each content type and should be based on the content structure. Naming conventions should be validated in the user study and user side testing when necessary and adjusted as needed.
Controlled vocabulary is the list of controlled terms that should be used for some of the metadata fields. These controlled terms should be standard terms used in standard publications, documents, majority of users, etc. Controlled vocabulary would help to ensure that metadata values are consistent. Consistent metadata will ensure high precision search.
QA and System Set Up
After all the above items have been completed and the system has been deployed or modified, perform thorough QA testing of the system at this time, fix bugs if there are any and then perform regression testing.
Then set up your content management system based on the above criteria and per users requirements. After the system has been set up, demo content can be uploaded in preparation for user acceptance testing.
User Acceptance Testing
Prepare the system and the script for user acceptance testing. Invite all user groups to test the system. User acceptance testing would help to validate that the system meets user requirements and to encourage users to start using the system. When they participate in this process, this gives them the feeling of ownership of the system. This process will also help to uncover problems and/or bugs in the system and to see what suggestions users might have. User acceptance testing is paramount to user adoption and change management processes.
If user acceptance testing has been successful, upload content for a pilot project into the system. Start with a simple project that does not have many content items. The reason for the pilot project is that if there are problems in the system or in the process, it is easier to fix them with having just few content items in the system. Invite all user groups to test the system. If the pilot project goes well, continue with the next project which could include more content items. Upload few projects into the system. Then create a plan for the migration of legacy content.